Predicting the future is risky business. History teaches us that many of the conveniences we enjoy today were thought to be useless inventions. The bicycle, the motor car, the personal computer, the television set, the laptop, the digital camera, the internet were all discounted. The powers of the day gave them the thumbs down. Those inventions proved the experts wrong. All those items have helped to define our culture and existence in one way or another.

The current realities tempt us to make predictions about the future. Truth is, no one really knows what normal will look like when the dust settles. Let us therefore be careful about pronouncements and pivot to discern the lessons to be learnt in the crisis. There are many lessons to learn and this article posits five of the many that we may learn.

1. We are all connected
This novel coronavirus was allegedly started in China based on the findings. That is very far away from the Caribbean. Flying to China would take almost 22 hours. When the virus started spreading, not many of us expected that it would come this far. Particularly since the others before did not come this way. Little did we know that what happened in China, Europe, and North America was heading for our paradise in the Caribbean – the same rod that strikes the wild goat strikes the tame. We live in a connected world. The 24/7 news cycle and the internet, keep the news of the world close.

For years we have heard about the global village and felt the economic realities of it. The covid-19 pandemic multiplied this reality. What happens in a market or a lab on the other side of the world has caused our islands to shut down and alter our lifestyles. This suggests that we examine all our activities. We are connected to people worlds away. We must think differently about life.

As people of faith, we must think globally and act locally. We must think about the state of the world and allow that to inform how we position ourselves for ministry. Increasing numbers of people no longer believe in the exclusive claims of Christianity. They are seeking out alternatives and are quick to embrace those doctrines. The church is no longer a dominant entity in the local or global ecology. So, what do we do?

The Christian community needs to go back to basics. Going back to the scriptures remind us that we were called to the world – Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Our teaching about who Jesus is must be clear in our minds. We are no longer “competing” with people in our village or town. The world is our village. As much as “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so” is foundational, it needs more meat, an apologetic disposition, so that it stands firm when contested. Our Christian Education Ministries must create content that helps all our people to embrace their faith and live it daily. Sermons must provide relevant information and inspiration to help Christians to connect Sunday and Monday – the altar at church and the altar in the marketplace. A new missional posture is required – oriented to serve the community for Christ’s sake and not at our convenience.

2. Church is more than meetings
There was great weeping and wailing when governments instructed all places of worship to be closed. This was compounded by the fact that we were in Lent. Some felt powerless thinking that the power of the Resurrection should not be compromised by a health scare. Then the reality that we were left without a viable alternative, gradually sunk in. Online worship has become the norm.

No one expected this but some reluctantly came onboard. How are we going to do all the things we need to do in each service? What about the worship team, the choir, the dance ministry, the youth Sunday and all the other “Sunday morning” components? Can we possibly have meaningful worship without these additives? What about our board meetings and group meetings? How will we survive?

It has been said that some churches will not survive this period. My personal feeling is that most will. They will re-emerge battered by the new reality. The question is, will we learn from the Covid-19 captivity of the church? Will we learn that some of the things we have made church about have served to make church life more cumbersome rather than attractive?

Will we learn like the early church that we can exist and thrive in small spaces? Will we learn that church is not about meetings and activities as necessary as they are, but about the community of the faithful witnessing to a God who meets people where they are and shelters and keeps in all of life’s circumstances? Ministry can be streamlined for greater effect. It is left to be seen what happens when this period passes. Some might go back to the way things were, seeing this period as an interruption. My personal view is that this was a disruption from God, intending to shift the church into greater preparedness for the “end game.”

3. We can do more online
This is controversial for sure. Brick and mortar are what we know when it comes to church. Yes, in-person worship provides a personal connection. But the technology is available to help build online community. Many developed personal relationships with people they never saw in real-time through the pen pal movement. Many persons came to and grew their faith on radio evangelists. Online church facilitates all of that and more.

With declining attendance, this is a “God-made” opportunity to take the worship to those who do not attend but are still sympathetic to the church of their youth. Millennials are known for enlisting on their terms. Since “the internet never forgets,” the online church content is available to them when they choose to access it. This author’s personal preference is for in-person worship. But the world does not revolve around my personal preference. As a Christian community, we examine the trends and aim our ministry to interface with the trends for maximum benefit of the kingdom of God.

One pastor informed me that their faith community seamlessly moved all their church activities online. Nothing stopped. The last element to move online was their giving which was easily facilitated through the banking system. They long embraced the techno- logy to keep in touch with members who were home-bound, who studies abroad, and who migrated but wanted to remain connected to their community. The technology enabled that community to benefit from the teaching of other leaders without the added expense of travel.

Now that all activities are online, there has been an increase in the attendance at some group activities because it is more accessible. Covid-19 is proof for this community of faith that they are heading in the right direction.

4. Faith is required to walk through the crisis
Every crisis should send people of faith to look again at their belief system. God is not an innocent bystander in global affairs. God uses events to fulfill divine purpose. What is God after in this situation? It is not clear, but one can say that for people of faith, we are being called to look to our God. We are called to dig deeper into the word of God and hear again what God is saying. In Scripture, we see God leading the people through the wilderness, through distress and ultimately to the land of promise. If we focus on the news, we will lose hope. If we listen to the conspiracy theories, we may become despondent. However, looking into the word of God and seeking after God, we receive hope for this journey. This crisis is calling us to faith, to endurance, to resilience, to prayer, to holiness, to building relationships and community. This crisis is calling us back to hear the voice of God. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me (John 10:27). Survival is dependent in obedience – hear and heed. Faith is required to walk boldly through this crisis.

5. God is sovereign
Walking in faith should lead us to the realization that God is sovereign but that is not the current reality. Many Christ followers believe that once they do all the right things that trouble will not come near their dwelling. Scripture debunks this notion as it shows us that every person God used in the Bible had to endure hardship and trial. Our faith does not spare us from trouble, it protects our eternal destiny. The sovereignty of God means that God does whatever God chooses to do - Then he said, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him (1 Samuel 3:18b).” (See also Daniel 4:35). The sovereignty of God means that God has total control of all things past, present and future. Nothing hap-pens outside God’s knowledge and control. All things are either caused by God or allowed by God for divine purpose.

When we accept that God does not have to protect our fragile faith, we free God to be God. Not that God is kept back by our shortened perspectives, but our individual faith is not challenged by the chaos in the world. The sovereignty of God in this crisis allows us to walk through this time believing that our steps are ordered.

Let us learn these lessons so that they inform our forward motion.